Family & Education

A-level U-turn welcomed by Jewish schools

Grades will now be based wholly on teacher assessment rather than modified by the exam regulator


Jewish schools have welcome the government’s dramatic U-turn on A-levels on Monday afternoon.

After a gathering storm of criticism since results were announced on Thursday, the exam regulator Ofqual said it would now accept grades produced by teacher assessment rather than adjust them according to a statistical method that had resulted in nearly two out of every five grades being lowered. 

 Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the government had worked with Ofqual “to construct the fairest possible model. But it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process." 

Announcing the volte-face, he said they now believed it was “better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results”. 

He was “sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve". 

Patrick Moriarty, headteacher of JCoSS, told parents he was “delighted” at the news.

 “There is no doubt that there will be some grade inflation as a result – but that is a better problem to have than the results as published last week.  It levels up rather than levelling down,” he said.

Earlier in the day, in a stinging critique of the government, JCoSS headteacher Patrick Moriarty had called on it to recognise a “policy failure of the greatest magnitude” and to accept centre-assessed grades.

Rachel Fink, headteacher of JFS said, “While JFS students were impacted less than those in other schools last Thursday, 25 per cent of grades were downgraded from the original centre assessed grade {CAGs}.  Despite this many students were successful in securing their places at university. 

“The government U-Turn at least acknowledges teachers' professional abilities to assess their students based on their performance over time.  However students should never have found themselves in this situation in the first place and a more informed plan should have been in place from the outset.”

Spencer Lewis, headteacher of Yavneh College, said, “Yavneh College students performed extremely well at A Level and the u turn to using CAGs will make a very marginal difference.”

Reacting to the news, the Jewish Leadership Council’s schools network, Pajes, said a significant number of school leavers had been under “extreme stress” in the past few days.  

The situation could have been “avoided or ameliorated a lot sooner. We hope that using centre-assessed grades [CAGs] addresses some of the concerns that have been raised and acknowledges the hard work of students over the past two years.” 

Teachers in Jewish schools “who spent hours applying professional judgment to produce CAGs to best reflect student attainment will feel vindicated for their students”, Pajes said. 

 “However, this U-turn highlights an over-reliance on the outcomes of examinations. Perhaps it is time to reassess our educational priorities and look for additional methods for assessing and recognising students’ achievements. 

 “It is time now to take action to ensure that next year’s GCSEs and A-level results are not impacted in the same way as it is clear that the actions taken to date are inadequate and need to be improved.” 

The government’s decision follows similar moves in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Ofqual had feared that simply relying on teacher assessments would risk grade inflation. So it instead adjusted them using a methodology which took into account the past performance of a school. 

But critics said this would be unfair to schools that may have made significant improvements and unfairly mark down individual students who would have performed well in exams. 


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